Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster Projection: Battles Brewing at Multiple Positions

The Cincinnati Bengals have invested heavily on defense in the last few drafts, and those players will determine how good the team is in 2024.

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Bengals have used nine of their last 11 premium draft picks (Rounds 1-3) on defensive players, and how that group performs in 2024 will go a long way toward determining whether the season is a success.

Shortly after the NFL Draft, the Bengals reportedly agreed to terms with another 14 undrafted college free agents. If all 14 end up signing — they’ll need to pass a physical — that will bring the roster total to 87.

A free agent signing or two is likely prior to next month’s mandatory minicamp as the Bengals near the 90-man roster limit. That number will need to be cut to 53 on Aug. 29.

On Tuesday, we looked at the 53-man roster projections on offense. Today we predict the defense and special teams.

Cincinnati Bengals 53-Man Roster Projection | Defense

EDGE (5)

Starters: Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard

Backups: Myles Murphy, Joseph Ossai, Cam Sample

Others: Jeff Gunter, Cedric Johnson

This feels pretty set. The only question would be whether the team brings back both Gunter and Johnson to the practice squad or if a UDFA pick earns a spot.

The most interesting thing to watch with this group will be how much Murphy’s role increases after playing only 27.8% of the defensive snaps last year. The assumption is that number will increase significantly this season.

Defensive Tackles (5)

Starters: Sheldon Rankins, B.J. Hill

Backups: Kris Jenkins, McKinnley Jackson, Zach Carter

Others: Jay Tufele, Travis Bell, Domenique Davis, Devonnsha Maxwell

The first four are locks, barring injury, but Carter’s spot is in question.

The 2022 third-round pick was expected to take a big leap in Year 2 after transforming his body to work on the interior rather than coming off the edge as he did in college. But Carter struggled to make an impact.

Linebackers (5)

Starters: Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt

Backups: Akeem Davis-Gaither, Joe Bachie, Devin Harper

Others: Shaka Heyward

Another position group where the top four are solid and the fifth is anything but. The Bengals claimed Harper off waivers in September, and he appeared in six games.

Markus Bailey remains unsigned as a free agent and could make a return, or one of the UDFA linebackers could stake a claim to the final spot.

Cornerbacks (6)

Starters: Cam Taylor-Britt, Mike Hilton, DJ Turner II

Backups: Dax Hill, Josh Newton, DJ Ivey

Others: Jalen Davis, Allan George

The third corner spot is up for grabs between Turner and Hill, as the 2022 first-round pick moves into the cornerback room after struggling in his first season as a starting safety in 2023.

The biggest wrinkle here beyond that competition would be whether Ivey is ready to go from the ACL injury he suffered in December. The Bengals could hold him out of training camp and start him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

If Ivey starts on PUP, Jalen Davis would likely get the spot as the player on the roster with the most experience in the slot, making him Hilton’s backup.

MORE: Predicting the 2024 NFL Playoffs

Safeties (4)

Starters: Geno Stone, Vonn Bell

Backups: Jordan Battle, Tycen Anderson

Others: Daijahn Anthony

Battle played well enough as a rookie to continue as a starter, but the addition of Stone and Bell in free agency upends the balance in the room.

It will be interesting to see how many three-safety sets defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo employs in order to get Battle on the field.

Anderson is returning from an ACL, so if that recovery is slowed, Anthony could slide in and steal that spot. But Anderson’s value on special teams is so great that he will be the fourth safety once healthy.

Specialists (3)

Kicker: Evan McPherson

Holder: Cal Adomitis

Punter: Brad Robbins

The Bengals are bringing in Texas Tech’s Austin McNamara to compete with Robbins for the job. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said Robbins needs to be better, but he has it in him to do so.

McNamara could be the push Robbins needs, or the shove that forces him to leave.

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